Showing results 1 - 12 of 84 for the tag: Kwame Opoku.

March 24, 2014

Is buying back disputed artefacts really a solution?

Posted at 6:31 pm in Similar cases

Prompted by the recent articles on China’s attempts to buy back disputed treasures, Kwame Opoku looks at whether or not this approach could ever work for other countries, and the various issues that it raises.

Bronzes looted from the Summer Palace during the Opium Wars

Bronzes looted from the Summer Palace during the Opium Wars

From:
Eurasia Review

China’s Purchase Of Chinese Looted Artifacts: An Example For Other States? – OpEd
March 24, 2014
By Kwame Opoku

‘One day two bandits entered the Summer Palace. One plundered, the other burned. Victory can be a thieving woman, or so it seems. The devastation of the Summer Palace was accomplished by the two victors acting jointly. Mixed up in all this is the name of Elgin, which inevitably calls to mind the Parthenon. What was done to the Parthenon was done to the Summer Palace, more thoroughly and better, so that nothing of it should be left. All the treasures of all our cathedrals put together could not equal this formidable and splendid museum of the Orient. It contained not only masterpieces of art, but masses of jewellery. What a great exploit, what a windfall! One of the two victors filled his pockets; when the other saw this he filled his coffers. And back they came to Europe, arm in arm, laughing away. Such is the story of the two bandits. Before history, one of the two bandits will be called France; the other will be called England’. — Victor Hugo. (1)

These sculptures of a rat head and a rabbit head were among the objects looted in 1860 when French and British soldiers under the command of Lord Elgin sacked the imperial palace in Beijing. The eighth Lord Elgin was the son of the seventh Lord Elgin, who removed the Parthenon Marbles from Athens. These two sculptures have now been returned to China. (2)
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October 28, 2013

Call for an international day for cultural property reparations relating to colonisation

Posted at 12:05 am in Similar cases

Kwame Opoku has forwarded me information about proposals (supported by various organisations in a number of countries) for an International Day for Reparations Related to Colonization.

Regular readers of this website will know that many of the cases discussed here, such as the Benin Bronzes, would fall into this category.

If you would like further information about this, please contact Louis-Georges Tin, the Chairman of the CRAN (Council Representing Black Organisations in France). If you would like to get in touch, please let me know & I can provide you with further contact details.

From:
Kwame Opoku (by email)

Call for the International Day for Reparations Related to Colonization

On October 12, 1492, Christopher Columbus set foot on the so called “New World”,
ushering in a cycle of occupation, violence, genocide and slavery: this was the beginning
of colonization.

Colonization is a global phenomenon: there is hardly a country in the world that has not
been colonized, a colonizer, or both, such as the United States. Colonization is one of the
phenomena that has most disrupted humanity. It has left a deep and lasting impression on
all continents and the consequences of this are
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February 28, 2013

The “Benin Plan of action for restitution” and what it means for the return of disputed artefacts

Posted at 8:51 am in British Museum, Similar cases

Meetings have been held in Nigeria, between representatives of the government & from various institutions abroad, that hold disputed Nigerian artefacts. The aim of this is to determine some way forward to resolving the issue. For an opinion on the viability of this, the second article I have reposted gives an alternative perspective to the official government line to the media.

From:
The Guardian (Nigeria)

Amid hope of restitution, Nigeria hosts foreign museums
Friday, 15 February 2013 00:00 By Tajudeen Sowole

AS Nigeria hosts some representatives of holders of the country’s looted cultural objects as part of efforts towards the return of the controversial artefatcs, the country’s dialogue or diplomatic approach is once again on the spot.

Scheduled to hold next week, significantly, in Benin, Edo State, where the largest looting of Africa’s cultural objects took place in 1897, the meeting would be the third of its kind between the National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM) and some museums in Europe.
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July 25, 2012

Nigeria demands return of disputed artefacts acquired by Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts

Posted at 1:07 pm in British Museum, Similar cases

Boston’s Musuem of Fine Arts has recently acquired an assortment of artefacts that were looted during the Benin massacre in 1897. Now, Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments is demanding their return.

From:
Huffington Post

Boston’s Museum Of Fine Arts Urged To Return Looted Artifacts To Nigeria
Posted: 07/20/2012 1:56 pm Updated: 07/20/2012 1:56 pm

The National Commission for Museums and Monuments, the governmental body in Nigeria that regulates the nation’s museum systems, is demanding the return of 32 artifacts recently acquired by the Museum of Fine Art in Boston. Consisting of various bronze and ivory sculptures looted during the Benin Massacre of 1897, the Director-General of the commission, Yusuf Abdallah Usman, states that the pieces were illegally taken by the British Expedition as spoils of war.

The MFA in Boston acquired the pieces last month as a gift from New York banker and collector Robert Owen Lehman, who purchased the Benin pieces in the 1950s and 1970s. But the pieces were originally looted by British soldiers in the late 1890s, following the Benin massacre of 1897. In a statement made by Usman, the commission stated: “Without mincing words, these artworks are heirlooms of the great people of the Benin Kingdom and Nigeria generally. They form part of the history of the people. The gap created by this senseless exploitation is causing our people, untold anguish, discomfort and disillusionment.”
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July 23, 2012

Reflecting on what can be done to recover African artefacts

Posted at 7:44 am in Similar cases

Kwame Opoku looks at the reaction of Nigeria to the recent donation of looted Benin artefacts to Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.

From:
Ligali

Wed 18 July 2012
Opinion: What can be done to recover African artefacts?
Opinion:Kwame Opoku (Dr) reflects on Nigeria’s reaction to the donation of looted Benin artefacts to Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Submitted By: Kwame Opoku

“The exhibition is showcasing some of the works that made Benin (Nigeria) famous. It once again, reminds the world of a civilization truncated by the imperial forces of the colonialist. The works on show at this exhibition are some of the 3000 odd pieces of bronze and ivory works forcibly removed from my great grandfather’s palace by some Britons who invaded Benin in 1897. The British kept some of the loot for themselves and sold the rest to European and American buyers. These works now adorn public museums and private collector’s galleries, all over the world.”(1)

– Oba Erediauwa, Oba of Benin.

Nigerian authority reacts

As had been anticipated by many, the National Commission on Museums and Monuments, NCMM, the Nigerian authority responsible for the preservation and conservation of Nigeria’s cultural heritage has reacted to the donation by Robert Owen Lehman of 32 looted Benin artefacts to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.
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May 28, 2012

Can artefacts really be more important within the British Museum than in their homeland

Posted at 1:08 pm in British Museum, Similar cases

Following a visit to the British Museum, Kwame Opoku questions what significance some of the museums artefacts (that were immensely significant to their original owners) can have within the context of the museum. In the majority of cases, the answer to this would be far less. Certainly, more people may see them, but in many cases they pass by it quickly – the piece means nothing to them, once it is displayed isolated from its culture.

From:
SPY Ghana

Sat, May 26th, 2012
DO THEY KNOW QUEEN-MOTHER IDIA OF BENIN?

A recent visit to the British Museum confirmed what we have observed in previous years: many Western visitors to the museum have no specific interest in any particular Benin object, even if they visit the Sainsbury Gallery and look at the Benin Bronzes. They are mostly unaware of the looted Queen-Mother-Idia (?Iyoba?) ivory mask.

Have the hundred years of illegal retention of this mask had any effect on the knowledge and interest of the average Western visitor to the museum? It seems hardly any European visitor is even aware that the mask represents an important personality in Benin history. Most Western visitors are certainly unaware of her important and decisive role and influence in stabilizing the Kingdom of Benin
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May 1, 2012

Questions of provenance arising from destroyed Nigerian Nok statue in New York

Posted at 5:23 pm in Similar cases

The owner of a Nok statue accidentally destroyed by a magazine photographer is suing for the cost of the statue. Other issues remain unanswered in this case though, relating to the exact provenance of the terracotta figure & how it ended up in New York in the first place.

Damage such as this once again raises the issue of whether such artefacts really are in any way guaranteed to be looked after better in the west.

You can read the press coverage of the story, which includes pictures of the statue, here.

From:
Kwame Opoku (by email)

DAMAGE TO NOK SCULPTURE IN PRIVATE WESTERN COLLECTION. WILL OTHER AFRICAN ARTEFACTS END IN THIS WAY?
1 May 2012.

It has been reported in the New York Daily News that the widow of the French artist Arman, is suing in Manhattan Supreme Court for damage to a Nok sculpture caused during a photo shooting session for an art magazine. The sculpture fell and broke into pieces as shown above. Apparently, assistants of the magazine had moved the sculpture from its usual secure position. Mrs Arman has claimed that the sculpture was worth some $300,000. What will the average Nigerian think of this sum?

A question that will surely be raised is whether the precious object was insured against damage and for how much. If it was not insured, this may well reflect on the value attached to it by the owner.
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March 29, 2012

Dorotheum attempts second auction of African artefacts – is provenance any better this time?

Posted at 8:24 am in Similar cases

Viennese Auction House, Dorotheum, last year auctioned an assortment of African artefacts, but questions were raised about the unclear provenance of many of the items.

Another auction is planned this year, but will the provenance of the items be any clearer than at the previous one?

From Kwame Opoku via email.

ANOTHER AUCTION OF AFRICAN ARTEFACTS BY VIENNA AUCTION HOUSE, DOROTHEUM: BETTER PROVENANCES?

Dorotheum, the Viennese auction house, is holding another auction of African artefacts on 2 April, 2012. Readers may recall that in an article entitled Auction of Arican Art by Dorotheum, Vienna. But what are the Provenances of the Artefacts? reference was made to the absence of proper and adequate provenance for most of the artefacts which were part of the African collection of the late Prof. Rudolph Leopold, founder of the Leopold Museum. Museum of Modern Art, Vienna.

The artefacts in this second auction raise the same problems as the first. The provenance given is often extremely vague e.g. from the “collection of a German missionary”, “Belgian collection,” “Austrian collection”, “private South African collection,” etc. This imprecision does not facilitate the determination of the mode of acquisition of the artefacts and their legitimacy. Nor do we have any precise dates. Thus we cannot follow the history of the ownership of the object.
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Can travelling exhibitions be seen as a real alternative to restitution of artefacts?

Posted at 8:04 am in British Museum, Elgin Marbles, Similar cases

Kwame Opoku has forwarded me a response to Neil MacGregor’s assertions that the artefacts should not be returned & instead substituted with travelling exhibitions to help share the artefacts.

From Kwame Opoku via email.

Travelling Exhibition as Alternative to Restitution? Comments on Suggestion by Director of the British Museum.

The Director of the British Museum has indeed a fertile mind that never tires of inventing new defences for the retention of looted artefacts of others in the major museums.

Once it became clear that the infamous Declaration on the Importance and Value of Universal Museums. (2002) and its principles were not as effective as the signatories thought, other approaches had to be considered.

One such approach is the “travelling exhibition”. This seems interesting and reasonable until one begins to consider what is being proposed. MacGregor is reported in Elginism to have told an audience at the University of Western Australia that due to globalisation, the concept of “travelling exhibitions” will become more relevant;
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January 31, 2012

More Dogon artefacts are in the Musée du Quai Branly than in Mali’s national museum

Posted at 2:03 pm in Similar cases

Many museums jealously guard their large collections of artefacts sourced from far corners of the world, pleased with the number of visitors that are drawn to their institutions to see them. Surely though, when it ends up that the foreign museums have more of a cultures artefacts that the national museums in their home country have, isn’t it time to re-think whether the balance needs to be redressed?

From:
Modern Ghana

MORE DOGON IN MUSÉE DU QUAI BRANLY, PARIS THAN IN NATIONAL MUSEUM, BAMAKO?
By Kwame Opoku, Dr.
Feature Article | 16 hours ago

“Malian cultural heritage has for several decades, undergone a massive transfer toward Europe and the United States. Analyzing the phenomenon in its universality, it seems very clearly to be the translation of an unequal relation between poor (weak) and wealthy (powerful) nations. The cultural assets of poor nations are being exported to rich nations. Examples to the contrary do not exist”.

There is no doubt that the current exhibition at the Musée du Quai Branly, entitled, “Dogon” is the most comprehensive and definitely one of the best exhibitions on the well-known culture of the Dogon, Mali. The exhibits are all so impressive that one cannot easily pick out any objects as more interesting and show them to readers, especially Africans who may not be able to visit this excellent exhibition in view of existing restrictions placed on Africans seeking to visit Europe. In any case, France would not accept as ground for requesting a visa for France, the current exhibitions on Dogon, Angola and Voodoo in Paris.
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December 6, 2011

Austrian auction house plans to sell African art despite unclear provenance

Posted at 1:56 pm in Similar cases

The Auction House, Dorotheum in Vienna is planning a sale of Austrian artefacts, despite the fact that the provenance of some of the artefacts seems unclear.

From:
Modern Ghana

AUCTION OF AFRICAN ART BY DOROTHEUM, VIENNA: BUT WHAT ARE THE PROVENANCES OF THE ARTEFACTS?
By Kwame Opoku, Dr.
Feature Article | Tue, 03 May 2011

Dorotheum, an auction house in Vienna, Austria has announced for 3 May, 2011, an auction of African art objects from the collection of the late Prof. Dr.Ludwig Leopold (1925-2010), founder of the Leopold Museum in Vienna.(1)

The announcement refers to”Tribal Art of Africa, objects from the unknown Collection of Prof. Dr. Rudolf Leopold”. Indeed, very few persons were aware that Dr. Leopold, collected African artworks. The Leopold Museum and Rudolf Leopold are well-known for their collections of modern European art, especially, the Vienna avant-garde – Gustave Klimt, Oskar Kokoschka and Egon Schiele. However the names of Dr. Leopold and his museum have been recently largely associated in the minds of many with the various attempts to deny to successors of those persons whose artworks were looted by the Nazis or were forced to sell them at ridiculous prices. The museum did not willingly return artworks in its collections with Nazi tainted history and legal battles had to be fought before such cases could be settled. (2) Leopold and his museum did not give in easily to claims for restitution of Nazi-looted art objects.
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March 17, 2011

When will Germany deal seriously with Egypt’s requests for the Nefertiti bust return?

Posted at 1:45 pm in Similar cases

Despite repeated requests, various museums holding Egyptian artefacts seem reluctant to ever enter into any sort of serious negotiations over the disputed pieces, instead meeting any return requests with an immediate rebuttal.

From:
Modern Ghana

NEFERTITI IN ABSURDITY: HOW OFTEN MUST EGYPTIANS ASK GERMANS FOR THE RETURN OF THE EGYPTIAN QUEEN?
By Kwame Opoku, Dr.
Feature Article | Fri, 28 Jan 2011

“On the other hand, even after giving away the colourful bust of Nefertiti, the Berlin Museum would still be far superior to all other collections, including that in Cairo, as regards the number and artistic value of the artworks from the Amarna period. And among our stock are many pieces that are of higher artistic rank than the elegant bust of the colourful queen”.
James Simon, 28 June 1930 (1)

The latest argument for detaining Nefertiti is clear evidence that the holders of the cultural property of others have no valid reason for depriving them of their cultural symbols. (2)
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